Here it is, Wild Card Weekend in the NFL. There are four interesting match-ups on the plate for Saturday evening and Sunday afternoon. We get a whopping three rematches of regular season games as well as a clash between two of the leagues best offenses. Typically in the Wild Card Round, we see at least one upset and one blowout. However, with the unpredictable nature of the NFL these days, nothing would surprise me. There are only four games which makes an NFL junkie like myself a bit blue, but at least the handful of games that remain on the docket mean something. As the teams raise their level of intensity, it is time for me to up mine as I roll into the playoffs coming off of my first 16-0 week of the season. Be warned though, the Wild Card Round is the toughest to predict. I can seen any of these games going either way, but for now all I can do is offer a little insight as to how I think they might go. Let’s get it going!
Saturday, January 4th, 4:35 e.t.
Kansas City Chiefs (11-5) @ Indianapolis Colts (11-5)
When these two teams hooked horns for the first time two weeks ago, Kansas City was heavily favored to win the game. Of course they ended up losing by 16 points and really did not look good at all on offense save their opening drive of the game. Fast forward to Wild Card Saturday and we have Indianapolis as slight favorites at home versus a Chiefs team that finished the season resting their players in San Diego. I like Andy Reid and all, but I disagree with his decision to rest the starters in Week 17. I thought that the team needed a bit of a momentum boost going into the postseason, but instead Alex Smith, Jamaal Charles, and company are actually limping in having not put together a good performance themselves since Week 15 when the team took apart the Raiders. As I have noticed over the last few seasons in the NFL, momentum is a huge determining factor in the outcome of all games (especially in the first round). As of right now, Indy has the hot hand, having won their last three contests. As long as the Colts’ offensive line can protect Andrew Luck like they did the first time these two teams met, I think the home team can get the job done. Playing clean football is going to be key for them though; a couple of turnovers could end up doing them in. Luckily, Chuck Pagano’s team is the stingiest team in the league in terms of giveaways (14). Who is number two? Kansas City, with 18… Yeah, the team that can hold on to the ball will be the winner of this game. I do think that the Chiefs have the better team, but I think that the Colts have the edge here because of their momentum and their prudence with the ball. Therefore, I am going with Indy here. By the way, I think Andrew Luck is a beast, but if you have been reading this blog for a while now you probably already know that.
Indianapolis 24, Kansas City 19
Saturday, January 4th, 8:10 e.t.
New Orleans Saints (11-5) @ Philadelphia Eagles (10-6)
This is the only match-up this weekend that will pit two teams that did not face off in the regular season, but boy is it a good one. We get to see the #2 and #4 offenses in the NFL test their wits against one another in front of a rowdy Philadelphia crowd that has not seen a playoff game played at the Linc since 2010. The game will be played in prime time too, making it that much more epic. So the question of the day is this: who wins? Philly is favored to win, for those of you who subscribe to the Vegas Line, but it is only a slight margin. As we all know, the Saints have not been as good on the road this year as they have been at home and that could do them in as they will not be playing a game down in the Big Easy until next season. With that being said, it would make sense to take the Eagles since they have been hitting their stride as of late. However, that loss to Minnesota really sticks at my crawl. Who is to say the defense from that game won’t show up in the City of Brotherly Love on Saturday night? As for the Saints, we know what they are; a high octane offense that is capable of running up some points in a hurry. I guess the Eagles are on that same ship as well, but for now I trust the New Orleans defense just a bit more than I do Philly’s. With that, I have to hedge my bet towards Nawrleans here. To tell you the truth, I could have just as easily flipped a coin and came up with a winner; these teams are that evenly matched. This one should be a great game, and I am predicting that it will go in the favor of the road team.
New Orleans 27, Philadelphia 23
Sunday, January 5th, 1:05 e.t.
San Diego Chargers (9-7) @ Cincinnati Bengals (11-5)
So the Chargers get into the playoffs by the skin of their teeth, but isn’t that how many of the recent Super Bowl winners have made their hay? Make no mistake, San Diego is a dangerous team and if their offense is converting third downs and possessing the ball, the afternoon could be long for Cincinnati. Even though the Bolts may be the sexy pick for this game, I am going to have to go with the Cats inside of “The Jungle”. They were one of three teams to finish the regular season 8-0 at home, and have blown out many of their last opponents who dared to forge into their territory. I like the way this team looks in Cincy, especially their defense. Also, the way Andy Dalton has gone over the past month and a half is that he plays poorly one week and then comes out and tears it up the next. If recent patterns are to be believed, this will be a week where the “Red Rifle” lights up the opposing team’s secondary. Plus, the Chargers defense is not always the most consistent with their play. Too many fickle factors come into play for this game, but the one thing we do know is that the Bengals don’t lose at home. Game, set, match.
Cincinnati 31, San Diego 21
Sunday, January 5th, 4:40 e.t.
San Francisco 49ers (12-4) @ Green Bay Packers (8-7-1)
This is the second straight year where us NFL fans have the privilege of seeing these two teams square off in the playoffs. Last year this game was played in the Divisional Round, and Colin Kaepernick shredded Dom Capers’ defense with his legs. In Week 1 this year, Kap tore through the Packers’ “D” with his arm. Anquan Boldin was a monster in that game with 13 catches for 208 yards and a touchdown. Vernon Davis added eight catches, 96 yards, and two touchdowns. Now the team will have Michael Crabtree and Mario Manningham healthy and available on offense, so they figure to be even tougher to stop. With that being said, I do think that the Green Bay Packers have the chance to be the dark horse in the NFC this year. They have a shot at being the team that surprises everybody and goes much deeper into the playoffs than we all thought they would. Plus, these guys are my Super Bowl pick so I kinda have to pick them here. The Pack have face the Niners three times in the last two years and have lost all of those games. It is time for these guys to get off the schnide. They will do this by setting the edge at the line of scrimmage (much like the team did back in Week 1 when these two met for the first time), and by attacking San Fran through the air with a bunch of quick passes. Protecting Aaron Rodgers is of the utmost importance, and I thought they did a nice job last week in Chicago. Look for the unit to duplicate that performance as Green Bay guts out a tough win on a cold (and possibly snowy) home field.
Green Bay 30, San Francisco 28
So there they are, my picks for Wild Card Weekend. I will be back on at the conclusion of all four games to give an in depth breakdown of each contest. I really do anticipate four close and highly entertaining games this weekend, so this should be a ton of fun to watch. I hope you enjoy the games and good luck to all of the combatants!
My Projected 2014 Divisional Round Match-ups
Cincinnati @ New England, Indianapolis @ Denver
Green Bay @ Carolina, New Orleans @ Seattle